The Lawns to Legumes program offers a combination of workshops, coaching, planting guides and cost-share funding for installing pollinator-friendly native plantings in residential lawns. The program also includes a public education campaign to raise awareness for pollinator habitat projects and will establish demonstration neighborhoods that showcase best practices. Partners include Blue Thumb - Planting for Clean Water and Metro Blooms. 

Funding is provided through the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) and will be targeted in priority areas to benefit the Rusty patched bumblebee and other at-risk species. Please continue checking this webpage for additional updates about the program. 

Sign up for program updates here

Apply for grants:

Two types of grants are available:

Individual Support Grants: Lawns to Legumes offers a combination of workshops, coaching, planting guides and cost-share funding for installing pollinator-friendly native plantings in residential lawns. Minnesota residents can apply to be reimbursed for up to $350 in costs associated with establishing pollinator habitat in their yards. Funding decisions and all notifications will be emailed in March for Spring 2020 installations.

How to apply: Apply online at Blue Thumb’s website

Demonstration Neighborhood Grants: Local governments, tribal governments and nonprofits can apply for grants through a Request for Proposals (RFP) to establish community projects intended to enhance pollinator habitat in key corridors, raise awareness for residential pollinator protection, and showcase best practices. Eligible applicants include soil and water conservation districts, watershed districts, watershed management organizations, cities, counties, non-profits and tribal governments. Applicants can request to be reimbursed for between $20,000 and $40,000 per demonstration neighborhood. Applications will be accepted through January 10.

Organizations overseeing a demonstration neighborhood will work with local residents to install four types of beneficial planting practices: native pocket plantings, pollinator beneficial trees and shrubs, pollinators lawns and pollinator meadows. Interested organizations can apply on behalf of their organization or on behalf of a group of partners who plan to work together to establish a demonstration neighborhood.

How to apply: Instructions can be found in the RFP on BWSR’s website.

DIY Resources:

Sample "Pollinator and Perennial Garden Landscaping Permit"

Many cities have lawn or vegetation maintenance ordinances that limit the height of vegetation or prohibit "weeds" in general terms. Some cities have established a permit process that allows planting of pollinator, perennial or other natural vegetation on residential lots. BWSR has developed a sample permit for cities that wish to allow such plantings. Note that additional changes to municipal ordinances may be needed to allow pollinator plantings. The city attorney should be consulted when drafting any ordinance amendments.

Pollinator and Perennial Garden Landscaping Permit Application (docx)

Program Components

The program will have three components as shown in the diagram below

The Lawns to Legumes program has three parts: Demonstration Neighborhoods, Individual Support and a Public Education Collaboration.  Goals for the project include increased Rusty Patched bumblebee habitat, restored pollinator habitat, assisting landowners with funding and/or technical assistance to conduct pollinator habitat creation projects and tracking long-term success of the projects.
The three components of the Lawns to Legumes program.

Why Pollinator Beneficial Plantings Are Important:

Bumblebee on hedge nettle
  • Many insects such as bees, butterflies, and moths that support our food and ecological systems are at serious risk.

  • Pollinator beneficial plantings also provide water quality, carbon sequestration and other ecosystem benefits.

  • Design, installation and management of pollinator plantings provide green industry jobs.

  • Improved soil health.

Key Ways to Incorporate Pollinator Habitat into Yards

  • Expand garden beds and plant pollinator habitat ie: native flowers.

  • Remove existing lawn (using sod cutters, etc.) and seed a pollinator lawn seed mix that typically include no-mow fescues and flowers.

  • Inter-seed flowers into existing lawn and increase mowing height, and decrease mowing frequency

  • Convert large areas to a prairie vegetation.

  • Plant your rain-garden with pollinator-beneficial plants.

  • Incorporate flowering shrubs and trees in the landscape such as chokeberry, dogwood, ninebark, hawthorn, cherry, plum, apple, maple and basswood.

  • Provide nesting and over-wintering opportunities, see Planting for Pollinators (link below) to learn more.

  • Eliminate the use of insecticides and fungicides to the extent possible.

BWSR has created a new Planting for Pollinators habitat guide for this program. Other key resources related to this program include:

What does this program do?

Lawns to Legumes offers workshops, coaching, planting guides and cost-share funding for installing pollinator-friendly native plantings in residential lawns. The program also includes a public education campaign to raise awareness for pollinator habitat projects and will establish demonstration neighborhoods that showcase best practices.

Am I eligible?

Anyone is welcome to use the planting guide or attend a workshop developed for this program to help plan a pollinator habitat project.

Minnesota residents anywhere in the state who have an area at their home that can be used for outdoor planting can apply for a combination of technical assistance (workshops, coaching) and cost-share funding. Proximity to areas where the Rusty patched bumblebee is likely to be present will be one factor considered when awarding reimbursement grants.

Why does this matter?

Minnesota is home to more than 450 native bee species. Pollinators also include butterflies, moths, beetles and native flies. All play a key role in pollinating many food crops and native plants, but populations have significantly declined worldwide in recent years. Population decline can be attributed to habitat loss and lack of related nutrition for pollinators, as well as pesticide use and pathogens.

The program aims to protect the federally endangered state bee, the Rusty patched bumblebee, and other at-risk pollinators. Even relatively small plantings of native flowers can help create conditions that are valuable to pollinators and can help build important habitat corridors.

What Insects Will Benefit?

This program is specifically designed to address the needs of the Rusty Patched Bumblebee, a federally listed endangered species. But providing habitat for one pollinator helps most other pollinators as well.

Monarch Butterflies and other bees will benefit from this habitat, as will other animals including birds, amphibians and reptiles whose populations have been declining in recent years.

Another added benefit is that pollinator plantings contribute to cleaner streams, lakes and rivers as plant root systems filter pollutants and runoff before they reach our waterways.

How Can I Help Now?

Planting for Pollinators habitat guide cover

You don't have to wait to create a pollinator-friendly yard!

Here are some guides to creating habitat:

Planting for Pollinators  BWSR's new guide for residential pollinator habitat

the Xerces Society: Gardens for Pollinators

Metro Blooms: DIY Bee Lawn

US Fish and Wildlife Service: Build a Pollinator Garden in Seven Steps

How will the Program work?

The diagram at the top of the page shows the program components. There will be three ways for people to access Lawns to Legumes assistance: Demonstration Neighborhoods coordinated by a municipality, non-profit tribe or conservation group, Individual Assistance in the form of workshops, coaching and/or cost share, or DIY resources available through the Pollinator Toolbox such as planting templates, plant lists and the program guide.

One of the most important goals of this program is to support the long-term maintenance of these projects. Maintaining your project through the years makes consistent and reliable habitat that is more beneficial to pollinators, AND provides all of the additional ecosystem benefits of water quality, habitat for other animals and carbon sequestration. The resources BWSR is developing are intended to help support longer term habitat with guidance about planting, design, maintenance and other important issues related to pollinator plantings.

View a diagram of this process here: